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With Respect and Humility, It Can Be Okay to Disagree

When It’s Okay to Go Against Your Husband’s Wishes

There may be times in life when the best way for you to honor the Lord is to disagree with those who have limited authority over you. Total subservience to anyone without hope for appeal or alternatives is not in line with God’s Word. The two extremes the Bible does not teach are total submission to something or someone and disrespect for an image-bearer who has a biblical responsibility to lead others. These tensions are examples of a false dichotomy: presenting only two options when better options exist.

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And David said to Abigail, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! Blessed be your discretion, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodguilt and from working salvation with my own hand! For as surely as the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, who has restrained me from hurting you, unless you had hurried and come to meet me, truly by morning there had not been left to Nabal so much as one male.” Then David received from her hand what she had brought him. And he said to her, “Go up in peace to your house. See, I have obeyed your voice, and I have granted your petition” (1 Samuel 25:32-35).

In 1 Samuel 25, Abigail went against her husband’s wishes, displaying great wisdom and actually saving his life. In doing so, she also confronted the future king with the reality that he was about to dishonor the Lord. Her move was bold and risky for a woman of the time. Soon after this, the Lord took Nabal’s life. David proposed to Abigail, and she accepted.

And she rose and bowed with her face to the ground and said, “Behold, your handmaid is a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord” (1 Samuel 25:41).

In her exquisite humility, Abigail unknowingly bore the image of the Christ she would never see this side of glory.

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him (John 13:3-5).

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The Soul’s Enemy

  • Have you ever gone against your husband’s wishes, dear wife?
  • Have you done so in humility, the way Abigail did? Her disobedience sought the good of others more than her safety.

Only a profound trust in God could move a person to act this way. It’s impossible to know for sure how Nabal would have reacted to his wife had he lived, but we do have a lot of insight into his character from this passage (1 Samuel 25:3, 1 Samuel 25:10-11, 1 Samuel 25:17). I have counseled several ladies who are married to similar men. Men like Nabal want to sit on the thrones of their own lives. When others, especially their wives, honor and serve them, they see it as their due. Gentle, kind responses don’t soften them like they do most people (Proverbs 15:1).

Nabal died in his unrepentant hard-heartedness despite the gracious testimony of his wife. When a person desires to make himself like the Most High (Isaiah 14:14), and he resists pleas for repentance, he often resorts to lying, slandering, and physical violence to keep his kingdom intact (John 10:10; Revelation 12:10; John 8:44). If you mouse over the verses in this paragraph, you will see a pattern: each of the characteristics I’ve described reflects not Christ but the enemy of our souls.

He doesn’t understand—or doesn’t care—that he’s taking authority that belongs to God alone. If you encounter someone like him, it would be good for you to understand gaslighting, so you don’t unwittingly fall victim to his manipulation. Incidentally, I’m not glad that the church in the West has to learn to navigate what it means to live under increasingly oppressive governments. I’m grateful, though, that collectively we are being forced to think in a more careful way about what it means to honor God under tyranny.

Trusting the Process

Are you seeking help from friends or the church because you’re married to a Nabal? My next question to you is a sober one: will you help them help you? Most pastors and counselors are not well equipped to handle a situation like yours. Some think they are prepared when they aren’t; others are terrified because they know they’re not. Will you do what you can to make this as easy on them as you can? I’m asking a lot, I know. I’m asking you to do a complicated thing, but I’m not asking you to do it alone.

I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies. The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of destruction assailed me; the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears (Psalm 18:1–6).

This call is not for you to trust in the outcome you want, dear friend; I’m asking you to trust the covenant-keeping God of the universe to go with you. For your sake, He did not spare His own Son; will He not freely give you all things? He knows your greatest need is Himself, and He gives Himself freely to those who ask Him to (Romans 8:28-32). I’m asking you to trust the process He’s laid out for you in His Word. I don’t know what He will do for you, but I know Him. Can you see how the Psalmist praises God amid his intense distress? Are you able to do the same? May I ask you to try?

High Water Mark

The easiest people for imperfect disciple-makers (which is all of us, without exception) to care for are humble, grateful, patient people. Our trials can either harden us, or they can make us like Christ, but they always reveal the constitution of our hearts. What is the heat of your life revealing about you, dear lady? Will you let the God who loves you skim off the dross of your heart and purify you (1 Peter 1:3-9)? Everyone has dross; I’m no different from you in that way. Will you pray this with me, as I pray it for you?

Lord, you have allowed this situation for Your glory and my good. I know that as well as I know my name, but I can’t see what You could possibly be doing right now. Will you help me to trust You? I am weak and frail, but you are my Rock and my Fortress. Protect Your child, God. I know my life and reputation are safe with You, and that You will be my defender.

Thank You that nothing and no one can make me sin against You. That is one thing my husband can never take from me, and how precious that is! Please forgive me for the ways I have chosen to dishonor You, specifically _______. Help me be like Jesus, who refused to sin against the people who were persecuting Him. Thank you that He trusted You, feared You, and nothing and no one else (1 Peter 2:21-24). These verses are my life; please make me like my Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58).

I do not have the same tender feelings for my husband that I used to. Love as You define it may or may not be accompanied by feelings, but nothing can stop me from being patient, kind, and slow to anger, all the things you laid out for me in 1 Corinthians 13. As I am persecuted, may I look more and more like You, the great God who is the archetype of all those blessed attributes.

I know that my love for my husband may look like rebuking him, pursuing church discipline against him, calling the police, leaving and taking my children to a secret and safe place to stop his sin against us, or staying here and humbly trusting You. Please guide me, God, and give me and your precious church wisdom to help me with my decisions. No matter what You do for me, will You help me love and trust You? Take glory for Yourself through me, dear God, for You alone are worthy of all praise.

Most of the women who come to us are not there yet. That’s okay. This perspective wasn’t meant to shame you but to give you something to aim for. My plea to you is that you not demand that your husband follow God while permitting yourself to sin (Matthew 7:1-5). God opposes the proud, but He gives grace to the humble (James 4:6); I want you to have His favor. Will you read this?

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Above All, Patience

Some ladies are more challenging than others to help. If what I am about to say describes you, please don’t lose heart, and please don’t become angry. I want to help you honor the Lord and receive the best care you can. These ladies are like wounded animals: they’ve been treated horrifically throughout their lives, and now they don’t know friend from foe. I have a special love for them. They have the world’s worst sunburn and need both care and correction but will run if you bring too much, too soon.

On the other hand, if you defend and advocate for them too strongly, you may influence them to become entrenched in self-righteousness. Caring for them can feel like you’re walking in a minefield. If this kind of lady cares less about honoring God than she cares about getting the result she wants, she may do whatever is asked of her at the time, anticipating a change in circumstance as a result. In a sense, she makes her helpers into functional gods: she doesn’t love them like she thinks she does, even though she’s sincerely grateful for them—until they can’t deliver what she hopes for.

They may be some of the only people in her life who genuinely love her and are for her; but she may feel betrayed by them and lash out in anger, even casting them aside because her husband didn’t change, or because they offered some desperately needed biblical correction to her. In the worst of these cases, it’s as if the enemy gets a two-for-one: both the husband and the wife bear his image and become liars (John 8:44), slanderers (1 Timothy 3:11), and accusers (Revelation 12:10), instead of reflecting Christ.

A Thousand Caveats

Most women who come for help are somewhere on the spectrum between the two I’ve described. Will you prayerfully look at both and ask God to show you where you are? Please don’t feel the need to defend yourself against the God who loves you (1 John 1:9). Saying the same thing He does about your sins as well as your identity is your path to freedom (Romans 8:1).

If you’re in physical danger, please don’t wait for permission to leave. If you’re safe for now, will you ask for help, doing your best to be a joy to serve? Meekness is not weakness. Please humbly communicate your needs and wants to the people caring for you. Print out some articles to take along if they will be helpful to you. If you hadn’t been through what you have, you wouldn’t understand your life and needs either. Please be patient with others who don’t believe you at first or at all. The Lord can be trusted with your reputation, and He can change hearts.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace (James 3:17–18).

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